Anaconda – Size Matters week

In honor of the wonderful Valentine’s/Birthday/Father’s Day/Christmas present my wife gave me, I am featuring giant things this week. Today it is a giant snake. Anaconda is currently available on instant Netflix.


PASS: Anaconda (1997) – Rated PG-13 for intense adventure violence, and for brief language and sensuality.

“When deranged snake hunter Paul Sarone (Jon Voight) tricks a filmmaking crew (Jennifer Lopez, Ice Cube and Eric Stoltz) into taking him on their boat so he can hunt a giant anaconda, the group soon finds itself up the Amazon River without a paddle as they become prey for the reptile. With their captain incapacitated, the crew must battle not only the fearsome snake but the equally slimy, ruthless Sarone. Great cinematography marks this thriller.”

“Unique among snakes, they are not satisfied after eating a victim. They will regurgitate their prey in order to kill and eat again.”

As with most modern horror movies, the film opens with an attack. This attack is very well shot and conceived. It manages to be suspenseful without ever showing the titular Anaconda. Sadly the film goes downhill from there.

One of the many many problems the film has is with scale. One of the rubber/animatronic Anacondas is not the same size as the same CGI Anaconda. Of course they also don’t move in even close to the same manner.

Another problem the film has is a lack of understanding of snakes and Anacondas in particular. Yes Anacondas grow really big and yes they can swallow people (cattle for that matter). Once they eat a big meal like that they just lay around practically comatose for long periods while they digest. Also snakes don’t screech.

Then there is the matter of the other wildlife. There are no wild boars in the Amazon and rigor mortis does not set in immediately upon death. Wild monkeys are also usually not found tied to tree limbs. Hint: if you are going to do that, do not show closeups.

The most hysterical scene in the movie does not even a snake in it. At the 1 hour and 11 minute mark instead of another shot involving the boat leaving the waterfall, they simply play the shot backwards. Watch the waterfall in the background and you will see all the water leaping up the cliff. Talk about lazy cinematography.

Make no mistake – in spite of the impressive cast for a horror movie, this is the Jon Voight show. Jon Voight was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar in 1970 for Midnight Cowboy and won the Oscar in 1979 for Coming Home. He has had two more Oscar nominations since – one in 1986 for Runaway Train and one in 2001 for Ali.

Unfortunately here Voight chooses to adopt a funny accent and overact outrageously. He appears at the 10 minute mark and dominates the film from that point straight through to the end. That said his performance has far more life in it than the rest of the cast.

Jennifer Lopez walks through her role here showing none of the verve or charisma she would show in the following year’s Out of Sight. Eric Stoltz is good as her love interest but is removed for much of the film. This leaves Ice Cube to play the other hero without the impediment of romantic entanglement. His performance is as bland as Lopez’s performance.

Backing them up in smaller parts are a pre-Armageddon/Zoolander Owen Wilson and, in a link to yesterday’s film, Kari Wuhrer as the expendable couple. Character actor Jonathan Hyde (Titanic) appears as a primadonna and Vincent Castellanos appears as a red shirt.

The tragic mistake this movie makes is that it isn’t scary and it isn’t funny. It’s merely mildly entertaining, mostly for Jon Voight’s performance, and I can’t really recommend it for that.

People Watch: One of my favorite character actors, Danny Trejo appears briefly as lunch, I mean a poacher.